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Speech sounds in the early years – some typical ages and stages for development

A blog from I CAN Communication Advisor, Amanda Baxter.

Ma fweds Peas and Cawwot (My friends are Reece and Charlotte)

When children are learning to talk they are still learning to make the sounds we use as adults. A lot of hard work goes in to this – and has been since they were born! All those endless blowing raspberries, babbling and singing Twinkle Twinkle little star at two in the morning haven’t gone to waste, as they help your children to learn the following:

  • Find out how their tongue, lips and mouth work
  • How to use these to make sounds
  • How to make sense of rhythms and sound patterns
  • Help them to learn that words are made up of sounds

… and that they can actually do all of these amazing things all at once!

When children are learning speech sounds, they go through different stages:

Up to 2 years

You should be able to understand about half of what your child says. Children might miss ends of words (say ‘bu’ for ‘bus’ or ‘do’ for dog). Lots of words might sound the same as they are only using a few sounds (e.g. p, b, t, d, m and w).

 2 to 3 years

You should be able to understand them most of the time. They might still make long words shorter e.g. say ‘ nana’ for ‘banana’. Plus, they are still learning to say the ‘ch’ at the beginning of chocolate (you’ll be surprised to learn!) and can say ‘sh’ in ‘shoes’.

3‐4 years

You should be able to understand everything they say. But they’re still working on some of their sounds like ‘l’ at the start of ‘lorry’, ‘red’ may still sound like ‘wed’.

4-5 years

They’re polishing up their sounds and sound much more like adults. They may still find it hard to say lots of sounds together e.g. ‘spring’ might be hard to say or ‘Christmas’ (but not ‘present’ or ‘ipad’ strangely enough).

When should I be worried?

Have a look at our guide to speech sounds and at Talking Point. If you are worried that your child is struggling to say sounds and they are very unclear you can contact I CAN Help and speak to a speech and language therapist who will be able to give you more information.